Doctors have told little Nienke Louw’s family their daughter’s heart defect should’ve killed her months ago. 16-month-old Nienke is a happy child – despite the two holes in her heart and the leaking valve. “Doctors told us she wouldn’t even survive her first year, but she’s our little fighter,” her mom, Erika, 34, tells YOU.When Nienke was five months old her parents noticed her heartbeat was unusually fast and took her to a doctor. That’s when the heart defect was discovered.“Doctors told us she needed an urgent operation to fix the holes in her heart,” Erika Louw says.Just before her first birthday Nienke was admitted to a state hospital for the operation but doctors were unable to fix her heart.“She still has two holes in her heart. But she’s the friendliest, most loving little girl I know,” Erika says.Erika says she believes Nienke is still with them because God is watching over her and because she’s getting so much love from her family. Nienke’s father, Jandré van Staden, and Erika have been together for six years and Nienke has two brothers and a sister.Read: 'I believe God will heal her' - father of baby girl with deadly rare disease“They’re very protective of her,” Erika says of Nienke’s siblings. Nienke is on medical aid but the life-saving operation isn’t covered at the moment. “It’s been excluded until next year. The medical aid will only be paying for it then – but her cardiologist doesn’t know if she’ll last that long,” Erika says.The family needs more than R900 000 for Nienke to have the operation. They’ve started a fundraising Facebook page where they regularly post updates on Nienke’s condition.Also read: KZN girl diagnosed with deadly illness days after her 5th birthday“Given the circumstances, she’s doing well. She’s a little behind for her age and can’t walk yet but we know she’ll get there,” Erika says.Erika, who used to be a pharmacist’s assistant, now takes care of Nienke full-time. Jandré is a mechanic who owns his own workshop.Two fundraising events are planned for later in the year but until then, the family is carrying on with life as usual. “I think every parent with a sick child worries they won’t see their child the next day but we’re staying positive,” she says.